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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

December 2014

The End of the Civil War



As we prepare to greet the year 2015, Civil War buffs like me are reminded that the coming year marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. That in itself calls for some sort of special recognition, but the city of Charleston, South Carolina, is making special plans to celebrate the end of the war there in the city where that war started. Here are a few of the events they have planned.

If you're in town tomorrow,Thursday, January 1st, 2015, please consider coming out and joining in or watching the Emancipation Day Parade--starting at 11 am outside Burke High School and working its way down King and Calhoun Streets to end at Emanuel AME Church (see  http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20141231/PC16/141239933 ). This year's commemoration is especially significant in that exactly 150 years ago in 1865 the provisions of the proclamation that anyone formerly enslaved would be henceforward "forever free" came into force across the reunited nation on the cessation of the Civil War.

In regard to the latter point, please also keep a look out for a series of events coordinated by the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World (CLAW) program in conjunction with colleagues at the Citadel, the Fort Sumter/Fort Moultrie Trust, and the National Park Service. Governing all these events will be the spirit invoked by President Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address of "malice toward none, charity for all."

On February 18th we will be commemorating the surrender of Charleston with a panel discussion involving the College of Charleston historians and former Avery Research Center director Marvin Dulaney.

On February 20th, Dr Joe Kelly will lead a seminar-style discussion based on the work in his book America's Longest Siege.

On March 11th, two noted Lincoln scholars, Dr Richard Carwardine (President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford) and Dr. Vernon Burton (Clemson University), will give a special Bully Pulpit presentation on Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address.

On April 14th, the Fort Sumter/Fort Moultrie Trust in conjunction with the National Park Service will be running special boat-trips to Fort Sumter for ceremonial re-raising of the Union flag.

On April 18th, the Dock Street Theater will see two panel discussions on the end of the war and its legacy featuring some of the nation's most prominent Civil War historians, including David Blight, Eric Foner, Annette Gordon Reed, Tom Brown, Emory Thomas, Ethan Kytle and Blain Roberts (this event supported by a major grant from the Humanities Council SC).

On April 19th at 1pm on Hampton Park, there will be a memorial service honoring all of the dead of the Civil War, led by Citadel chaplain Rev. Joel Harris and Rev. Joseph Darby.

On April 19th at 7pm, there will be a reenactment of a feast of reconciliation organized in 1865 by Nat Fuller, Charleston's most prominent African-American caterer (some of you may have seen the Post and Courier piece on this just before Christmas: http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20141223/PC1206/141229762).

As other events appear on the calendar, i will try to keep you posted. In the meantime, I'm holding my own small celebration of the end of the war by working on a new novel that will explore the years immediately after the war. More details on that to come in the new year.

Writers Are as Weird as Meercats.


I found this picture today, attached to an article about the secret lives of writers.  If you'd like to read the original, you can find it here, at Edie Melson's blog, "The Write Conversation."

I've always loved meercats. They do silly things. They imitate one another. They panic easily. They scurry around and forget where they were headed. But they also take care of one another. No meercat colony is ever totally unprotected. There is always someone on guard, keeping watch over the rest of the family.

Does any of that sound familiar? It should, if you are one of those lucky writers who belong to a writers' group. We do silly things. We learn from each other by copying whatever works best for other members of the group. We panic easily --over falling sales figures, a horrible pun or gross grammatical error, a misspelled word, a missing page number, a cover image that looks like a blob in the thumbnail version. We get involved with a story and forget where the plot arc was supposed to be headed. But we also take care of one another. We offer shoulders to be cried upon, reviews to be posted, blurbs to lure readers. We tweet and retweet, feature each other's books on Facebook,and pin each other's book covers on our own Pinterest "Favorite Authors" boards. We read, we critique, and we encourage, and we praise. We're human meercats, and I'm proud.

For my fellow Military Writers Society of America members, I want  you to look at that picture and imagine those meercats in a desert setting, surrounded by rocks and towering cacti, maybe with a signpost that reads "This way to Phoenix." Do you recognize anyone there? I do! We're silly, we share our ideosyncracies, and we have common failings. We're also lucky to have one another. So, as this year comes to a close, here's a "Thank You, Fellow Meercats" for all the help you have been along the way to publication.

How To Keep Your Favorite Author Happy at Christmas Time

I'm sharing a post from Terry Odell, because her suggestions apply to all writers:


So, here are a few ways to make an author happy (other than buy­ing their books—that’s a given.)


  • An obvi­ous addi­tion to buy­ing an author’s books, of course, is to buy their books as gifts for oth­ers. I think all the e-bookstores have “give as a gift” options, so it doesn’t have to be a phys­i­cal book.
  • Let the author know you enjoyed their books. Email them. Most author web­sites have a “con­tact” form. Truly, we all love to hear from readers.
  • Tell other peo­ple. This is a big one. I can tweet about my books, or post on my Face­book page, or send out newslet­ters, but ONE tweet from a reader, or one post­ing on my Face­book page that they’d enjoyed a book is golden. Many e-readers have ways to do this when you fin­ish a book, but tak­ing a minute to com­pose a short tweet is a won­der­ful gift.
  • See a tweet from an author you like? Doesn’t have to be book related. Retweet­ing it helps build visibility.
  • Leave a review. Many pro­mo­tional sites require X num­ber of reviews, and they don’t have to be long. In fact, a short, “I liked this book because” or a quick state­ment about some­thing you enjoyed is plenty.
  • And even if you don’t like going pub­lic, sim­ple word of mouth is a great gift, even if the recip­i­ent is unaware you’re giv­ing it. See a spe­cial deal on an author’s book, even though you’ve already read it? Tell a friend.
And, all of the above are gifts you can give all year long. Happy writ­ers write more books!

Just When You Thought Things Were Going Great





Something spills the beer!  As some readers have heard, husband dear is in hospital, awaiting some sort of a resolution to an aortic valve that has hardened and no longer wants to pump.  We are waiting for various eminent surgeons to get their heads and schedules together to figure out what to do and when to do it. I'll post occasional updates, but I just can't bring myself to do any blogging or book flogging at the moment. Maybe books will sell themselves? Maybe not, but a heart valve won't heal itself either, so I'm busy for a while. Have a good holiday, everyone.  We're sort of postponing ours.

The Best-Laid Plans of Mice and Men Gang Aft Agley





Contrary to rumor, we are not living it up in a condo on Hilton Head Island. Instead the view out this particular window is from Baptist East Hospital in Memphis. Floyd collapsed as we were getting ready to leave yesterday. That resulted in a completely different 911/ambulance ride/ER trip.

We've been waiting ever since to find out the cause. Word finally from the cardiologist--slight possibility of heart attack, almost certainly a failure of the aortic valve. He will be in the hospital through the weekend, with cardiac catheterization scheduled for early Monday morning. And that will tell us whether they are going to do the valve replacement, a bypass, or both -- and how soon they have to be done.

Floyd's actually in a pretty good mood and would welcome calls. His room phone is 901-236-2359. The doctor tried to jolly me up by promising that he would "have him all tuned up by the holidays." But not in time to celebrate our 54th anniversary, I'm afraid.